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Injured Passengers of Cruise Lines Might be Without Compensation

Lawyers from two U.S.law firms as well as the Italian consumer group, Codacons, are expected to file a class action lawsuit in Miami on behalf of passengers on board the Costa Concordia cruise liner. The lawsuit will likely name Costa Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Cruise Lines. Attorneys for the passengers state they will ask for approximately $160,000 per passenger in damages.  Typically, damages include items such as the injured person’s medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.  Many passengers report bodily injuries and mental anguish as a result of the crash.  For example, one passenger and her daughter say they are unable to sleep well and relive the memory of the incident daily. 

The liner went down off the coast of Italy last week after hitting a sand bar.  After the ship hit the bar and began to sink, there was reportedly utter chaos on board, and it took hours to get passengers off the ship.  Reportedly, the ship’s captain left the vessel with most passengers still on board.  Some passengers report being forced to jump from the ship and swim to shore, others got into life boats and made it safely ashore.  Sadly, other passengers were not as fortunate and at least 16 bodies have been recovered from the ship to date, and approximately 20 people are still missing.

At least 16 people needlessly lost their lives, and many of the 4,500 passengers on board were injured by the cruise line’s negligence.  But, due to legal maneuvering by the cruise line, passengers may never be fully compensated for their injuries.  Usually, all types of damages would be part of what an injured person is compensated for during a lawsuit.  However, in cases where people are injured on cruise ships, passengers’ tickets could be preventing them from being fully compensated for their injuries.  Passengers’ tickets are actually contracts with the cruise line and contain much more information than most people realize. These contracts often release cruise lines from being responsible for passenger injuries without the passenger ever realizing it.  Most often, the contracts contain provisions that prevent passengers from making claims for pain and suffering after they are injured by a cruise line.  Passengers agree to these provisions and waive their rights to be fully compensated when they purchase the ticket from the cruise line. 

Also included in the language of many tickets is what is called a forum selection clause.  This means the cruise liner states the country and court system any lawsuit or claim for injuries must be filed.   Most likely, the tickets held by passengers of the Costa Concordia state claims for injuries must be brought inItaly, not theUnited States.  This creates a huge burden on passengers from around the world and is another obstacle to prevent cruise lines from paying for the injuries they cause.  Why, then, is the lawsuit being filed inMiami?  I am not involved in this case and can only speculate, but I suspect it is in hopes of finding ways around the clauses put into passenger contracts by the cruise line. 

Reportedly, Costa Cruises is offering passengers a full refund, travel expenses, reimbursement for any on-board expenses and credit card charges, and full payment for documented medical expenses.  However, such an arrangement does not fully compensate passengers for their injuries.  Most notably, the cruise line is offering nothing for passengers’ pain and suffering, such as the mental effects of what is described as a chaotic and terrible situation on board.  The offer also does not include longer-term care options such as for future medical expenses.

So, even if the attorneys are successful in brining the lawsuit inMiami, there are likely still obstacles to the amount and types of damages passengers can recover.  I will be following the lawsuit as it progresses. 

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